tv 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign Organizers CSPAN August 8, 2018 10:43pm-11:46pm EDT
for our second panel the architect of the poor people's campaign and it is my pleasure to welcome marc steiner. after winning a peabody award raising the consciousness of audiences for 24 years as a talkshow host, he has become one of the most recognized and influential figures in the area. he hosted shows for public radio stations at john hopkins. maryland's public radio and the state university pick a station that is essential to baltimore as the voice of the community. here is the president and ceo of his own production company. it one the peabody award. he will be joined by peter b. edelman . he teaches
constitutional and poverty law and directs the center on poverty and inequality. he was a legislative aide for robert kennedy and was with senator kennedy when he was peter b. edelman and marion wright came up with the identity of a perching -- of perching -- peter b. edelman married marion. they married after that camping and this year they are celebrating their 50th anniversary. [ applause ]they will be joined by another history maker, bernard lafayette. he is an icon of civil rights.
student nonviolence coordinating committee. he is one of the courageous freedom writers. lieutenant with the conference and an associate and a protigi of doctor martin luther king pick he appointed him for the 1968 poor people's campaign pick please join me. good afternoon. i am glad you can be with us today pick it is an honor to be on this panel. we take a journey to the past. bring us up to this moment because i think a part of what is important to me is as weak
get older, those that are getting older, think about what happened in the 60s and where we are now. where is this society in relation to poverty not being necessary? i want to go back to get stories before i moved into the rest of the conversation. taking us back to 1960 two nashville. the baptist college and what happened there with the citizens and what part you and give us a sense of that.
>> going back to 1960 i was a student at the american baptist college. it was a strange coincidence that we all ended up in nashville at the same time. diane, jim, marion and john ended up there at the same time. he came down and trained us in nonviolence. we focused specifically on the sit in. that is what the training was about. it was actually not until 1960 that we actually had a sit in, protest. you go down and you sit in and you find out what the reaction will be. then you come back to the church and you role-play. you have a little play on what
would happen. people yelling at you and screaming at you and stuff like that. it was about a decade ago that i realized that was a train of emotions. it was like boot camp getting you prepared because sometimes you might want to do something but to get into the situation you will lose it. that is what people say, i lost it. you lost control over yourself. that was one of the things that we learned to do. first of all, control yourself. there is ways you can do that. that is what we did. we practice controlling ourselves in extreme situations. we had self-control. you can control yourself and you have a great possibility of
controlling the situation. that is what the training was all about. that was what my whole life was devoting to. nonviolence training all over the world. trying to get me to go to northern ireland right now. that helped us. that is why we continued. the freedom rides came to a halt because of the extreme balance. burning you up on the bus and they were holding the door so you could not come at. somebody was holding the door realizing the bus could explode and the ku klux klan said let's get out of here.>> let me interrupt you. i will give you a sense of the
history pick think about it pick this is 1960. the freedom rides. that is in alabama. they try to kill the people on the bus. bernard lafayette and the students in nashville decided they were going to pick up the torch. they knew they could die. they could be hurt. they did it. they took the freedom ride over and move it ahead. that is something that people that have been through it are modest to talk about it putting their lives on the line which is what you did and a lot of people did. i think it is important to put that in context. [ applause ] you are talking before and you
were in law school when this was going on. i never asked you this question. before we get to bobby kennedy, what about where you were in 1960? you are watching the news .>> just that. i really didn't get deeply involved in all of these things until i went to work for robert kennedy in 1964. i was finishing law school. i was certainly cheering on and understanding the carriage -- courage of what bedard and others did. i was on the way to being a lawyer and i worked for a
couple of judges. a place that comes together because i ended up working in the justice department in the fall of 1963. i was in the civil division. i did some work that had to do with civil rights. of course we lost the president. i was in the kennedy administration, if you will. the most important part about that personally was because i was there and he decided to run for the senate, i was in the position to have a chance to work for him in the campaign and then i worked for him and much of what i did was about poverty and i worked for him until his death.>> let me go to
alabama. let's at build the story up to a point where we can explore that moment leading up to 1968. working for the committee in the south and you took up a job that nobody wanted. in georgia. people were afraid to actually take a position. talk about that moment when you want to organize a place where people work terrified to. >> yes. it was a continuation from the sit in to the freedom rides. just one point i want to make and that was the reason why we
continued the freedom rides. because doing the sit ins in nashville in 1960, we desegregated the lunch counters downtown. the lunch counters at the greyhound bus station and guess what, we desegregated the greyhound bus station in 1960. we went all the way down in the second -- desegregated bus and you got off and went to an integrated bus station. the whole bus station was desegregated. that was one of the reasons we continued to freedom ride because we had already experienced desegregation of
the bus and nashville. we knew it could happen. that was part of it. you have success and you build upon that success but you don't just depend on success. you evaluate and you look at strategy. you have to understand why it happened. how it happened is more important. we looked at what we did to make it happened -- happened and there is a story there in terms of nashville. moving ahead to alabama, when we did the freedom rides we decided what we were going to do and the way i am talking about is john and diane and we decided we would give our time now since we helped to form
them. we dissented -- desegregated the lunch counter. we had already desegregated the lunch counter and marion barry became the first chairman. we decided that we would give, just like the peace corps and volunteers, we would take off from school and spend two years giving our time as field secretaries. i went to get my job and i find that james who was our executive secretary, he said what was needed where than anything else was somebody to raise money to
get him out of jail in louisiana. they put him in jail and they would only accept $10,000 cash bond which was like $100,000 now. we always made a pledge in the movement. nobody would suffer alone. either we would help get you out of jail or we would join you. you did not have to worry about being left alone. we would do it with you. i said okay. if fundraising is what you need i will do it. they sent me to detroit. i was in detroit others who helped to have money had a meeting.
he was in jail and mississippi. diane refused to get out of jail . she was nine months pregnant. we were begging her to get out and we could not find a way to get her out of jail. she said any child, black child or colored tiles in those days, born in mississippi is born in jail. she was going to have the baby in jail. we had to figure out a way to get her out of that jail. women are very smart and the fellows had to put their heads together. guess what? her father was from detroit. he was a dentist.
a very popular dentist and detroit picked they used to call him the painless to doctor. he did not spare the novocain. do you know what i mean? his office was always lined up. whether they had a toothache or not. i said wouldn't it be great if the grandfather could be there when the baby was born so i told diane that we needed her to raise the money to get diamond out of jail and we could raise more money because her father was well known detroit. we got the word down to diane pick wouldn't it be great if you could get him out of jail? that was the thing that caused her to get out of jail.
help get somebody out of jail. a long story short. i had to throw that in. we raised the money. we want to go into that. they will go down to visit and they arrested them. they were going to help black folks get registered to vote. the laws were a little different. do you know what they tried to do? he was trying to get black folks to vote and the charge was conspiracy through the state of louisiana. isn't that something? anyway when i went down to get my job after we went to chicago and we were provided all of that
and anyway, i went back to get my job assignment and the foreman told me that they were -- there were no more assignments. he told me if i would not have have helped the money i would have got one of the assignments of voter registry -- registration. charles was in georgia. i looked on the map and there was and x to selma. they said we are not going to selma, the county. they said we sent two teams of workers and i came back with the same report. you can't accomplish anything
in selma, alabama. they gave the same reason. white folks are mean and black folks are scarred. we are not going to selma. so i kept going behind me and i said you promised me you were going to give me a directorship and he said you can be assistant director. i said i am 23 years old and i am not going to be assistant director. [ laughter ]. i might as well get married. [ laughter ] he said do you want to take a look at it? i said i will take it.
i wrote a book called peace and freedom. my journey in selma. if you want to really know how the movement got started get the book. peace and freedom my journey and selma.>> i will move up to the moment. i can handle it. just checking. i will take you back to when the words -- the role that the people played. you were there at the beginning. peter, the story that you told one of the first time we had that conversation and it was a
student -- story i never heard about how you and bobby kennedy went downtown and you met your wife. an incredibly powerful charismatic lawyer. how you ended up having a lunch with bobby kennedy. tell us about that story.>> i think i need to start and lay the groundwork. when we talk about all of the things that the movement did at great risk, the point was to get laws passed that would change the landscape. you can fall back before
>> just because you have lost does not make things are wonderful next day. the 1964 act which was by public accommodations and employment. it would not have happened and you were back-and- forth and certainly doctor king and others were pushing very hard. bobby kennedy as the attorney general and ultimately they got the bill in 1963 and after we lost president kennedy it was and acted. this is back-and-forth. this is the very intersectional thing that takes place. president johnson said that he needed the movement to push at him, which of course they were
doing anyway. all of those things that were done through the civil rights movement would have not come to anything if you did not have the people not so enthusiastic about it. in terms of my involvement in this and having to go to work for robert kennedy and one of the first things that i worked on in 1961 was the act. this was a small way, a three dimensional process that has to take place to make these things happen. i had a chance to have a modest role in that. the other thing i put out there as we talk about mississippi
and robert kennedy was that when he had lost his brother and had to find out -- this is the part that i am involved. it turns out that on the domestic things and there were international things as well but the major issues from the day that he was sworn in as a senator in 1965 and i was there was about race and poverty. in terms of my ride because i sat him on those issues. we went in 1966 because of the
interest that robert kennedy have dish had and that and being supported by the union. there is a whole enormous part of his day about these issues. in 1967, the war on poverty technically the economic opportunity act was upped -- up to be reauthorized. congress kept on a short string that had to be enacted every year. there was people that were more enthusiastic about it. some of those were public officials.
kennedy was one of those subcommittees. we went all over the country. i went with them and all of these things and i say parenthetically and the last thing is it turns out that i am met marion along the way. it is not irrelevant. we had been to chicago where the mayor was not enthusiastic. i did not know if he knew. indian reservations and the work that he did in brooklyn and all of these things. in the spring of 1967, we were having these hearings picked the subcommittee decided to go to mississippi. this very much connected it.
what was there was the cd gm which was the largest headstart organization in the country. 21 counties. the reason it was there and it was a nonprofit independent was because the state would not take the money. the law said if the state won't take the money, the federal government can find a nonprofit and award them. the child development group from mississippi gets set up and these are all civil rights people that are doing the teaching. it really annoyed the power structure. they took it upon themselves to destroy them any way that they could. the saying that there was
stealing and so on and so on. we went down there to give marion, in addition to being the first black woman who was the lawyer in mississippi and the legal defense and chief lawyer in mississippi and also the general counselor. she was asked to be a witness there and she talks about that. then she talks about the fact that there is children and families in mississippi who are close to starvation. very significant malnutrition and it is awful and we changed the plan work we went to mississippi and saw the
families. there was a reason for it. it is a longer story but essentially the cotton industry and the cotton plantations changed their way of working and they did not need the workers anymore for minimum wage. they were able to get rid of -- harvest the cotton with machines and so on. this can ask the campaign because what we saw their of these children was swollen bellies with sores under their arms. robert cantu d -- kennedy came home that night and he said to his children, he said
we walked from one house to another but he had never seen anything like that. for america, it was shocking. robert kennedy was in mississippi and he was with cbs and it was on national television that night. that work and what he did subsequently and i should not go through all of the details but he started an effort in many ways to get a response in the country which led to george martin and finally president nixon sending a bill. the
campaign is a part of the story. that is the place where that starts. it is because marion and dai, i did not tell you all of the details and i shouldn't. we had -- marion came up to see me and i will go to mississippi he. robert kennedy loved her. that was it. it was a real friendship there. one time she was in town. he was home and i called and said marion is here and would you like to see your and he said yes come to lunch. we are in the fall of 1967. we head seen the children who were so hungry in the spring.
just thinking this was tied together. senator kennedy said what is doctor king doing? what are you doing? she said i am going to atlanta. i have a meeting with doctor king and all of the colleagues there. they are trying to figure out what to do next. robert kennedy says to him, you should go down. you tell them that they should bring people to washington and have them stay there until the people here in washington do what they really should do. that is where the poor people's campaign came from.>> the evolution of bobby kennedy and his team and who he was as a human being.
because we are on schedule, is there a microphone out there how are we doing this? >> do we have a question over there? just take three or four questions. i am going to have to be mean. who is going first? go ahead.>> could afternoon and thanking dish thank you for joining us today. i am compelled to ask given the statistics that we post today. in 1960 55 % of african- americans were living under the polity -- poverty line. why we did not start -- what
was thinking behind moving us toward integrating places that allow blacks to spend the money as opposed to integrating other social sectors that would allow black people to turn more money ? >> a very good question. it is important to understand not only what happened but why it happened. if you are not respected enough to be able to go and sit down and have a hamburger then you are certainly not going to be respected enough to get a series to start your business. the whole idea area -- is not to
, we just couldn't eat. there were other places to eat. there was better places to eat. [ laughter ]. i can say this now but i was glad they did not serve some of that food. the truth of the matter is that we went back to the church and we had lunch. people provided that for us. the baptist church helped provide resources for us. things like that it was not about eating at the lunch
counter. it is why we couldn't eat at the lunch counter. because we were black. the truth of the matter is there was black people that used to eat at the counter. i was trying to look in the audience. [ laughter ] i am not going to tell. don't worry about it. so the issue was based on principles here. not the menu. okay? here is something interesting i have to share with you. the mayor created a biracial committee. okay?
the biracial committee consisted of black and white people. the president of one of the colleges was on the committee. they told us, the leaders in nashville, they say we are going to have the meeting with you because we have a proposal that might solve this problem. we were very excited about that. professionals and everything and lawyers and staff. we went down and they told us we had to come in one by one. they were a group of biracial community pick -- and when we came in they wanted us one at a time to show the proposal. diane and john said we are not
going to go with that. they will meet with us as a group just like they are a group. it makes sense. i said wait a minute. hold it. we don't know what the proposal is. this is the first time they will share with us what they have been working on. they come up with solutions. we do not need to walk away. we need to find out what they came up with. why don't we do this. let's given one by one. here their proposal and say thank you i will get back with you. you don't have to agree with that or disagree. listen to the proposal one by one. we get together by ourselves and decide as a group. we went in one by one. do you know what they proposed to us?
it's not even in the box. they said hypothetically the seats at the lunch counter is something for everybody. equality. the first 10 seats will be for white only. the middle 10 seats would be integrated. black and white feet -- people want to sit together and be integrated. you can do that. the last 10 seats will be for black only. some black folks might not want to see close to white folks and make them sick. do you know what i mean? that was reserved for black only. that is equal access. if you were integrated you can sit there. the whole idea was that if you
see that enough, even when you get to the last 10 seats, you might end up sitting next to a white person. okay? it was the other way around being integrated pick list seat. sit next to a white person. something for everyone. when they get a chance to see it they will feel comfortable and sit where they want to. that is what they came up with in nashville. this is the truth. we looked at it. the question was why didn't we accepted. it was a step toward change. what are they trying to do now?
we said no because you see what you have to understand is you are compromising. you never compromise principles. [ applause ]the principle is that you have equal access. in other words, the 10 seats would be equal because you run out of 10 seats. the whole preface of segregating you was for the purpose of saying that you are not equal. that was against the principal. the principal was that we should be treated with full equality. >> that is a terrific question. 55 % poverty went down. it went
down to 32 % which was terrific. the point is that civil rights movement where the citizens were part of a much larger strategy. the 1963 march on washington was about jobs as well as the other issues of civil rights. when you look at the larger results of the movement, how did we get to 55 % down to 32 %? the economy was good but that is not good enough. people remember that the 1964 act was partly about making it illegal to engage in
discrimination. that had an effect all over the country and especially in this city. you are beginning to have african-american mayors and you were able to change the power and the city. the result of that is that african-americans got middle- class jobs in the private sector but heavily in the public sector but that is related to the civil rights movement. that led to that very impressive decrease in poverty for african- americans.>> another question from the audience. such a different time. we are talking about legal segregation which was stopping everything in the south. there is a time of terror against black folk in the south.
those things were reasons why they had to be broken for everything else to move ahead. that is a big piece of it.>> in terms of today with the onset of artificial intelligence and automation and tech services, what are your suggestions to make sure industries and employers are held accountable to create safe and legit platforms to secure employment services and opportunities for african-americans and particularly those in low income settings. more insight to mitigate the lot -- widespread automation and programs and careers and the outsourcing of labor.>> we have a serious problem in our country in terms of what the
future of jobs are. we are already a low-wage country. we know that. not just a question of the 41 million people who are in poverty but the 100 million people in the second poverty which is all of those jobs that don't pay enough, particularly for a single mom with children where the poverty is over 40 %. that is across all and not just people of color. we had coming out at us is the effects of technology. we have to have a national discussion. we have all kinds of things. whether it is infrastructure or taking care of children and the elderly and people with disability or building houses were green energy.
if we were to invest in the things that need to be done in our country and this is an enormous and a lot of change in the way we pay for the government. it would take an enormous effort but it comes down to whether we are ready to have the politics to talk about it right now and the implications of the future to have the politics that would give us that commitment to have the kind of job that we need to have with people of all races.>> i want to follow up on his question which is we think about the campaign in 1968 and where we where. the struggle was happening then
and the demand was far reaching. a guaranteed income of the campaign. the campaign was 500,000 new houses that would be built for people in the communities. things like that are part of the demand. here we are in 2018. we are facing a place where we have close to full employment. wages that don't -- the administration talks about the war on poverty can and. i am thinking about the two of you. you are active for a long time. politically and socially in our country.
as elders from then to now, what do you say. where we can go and i know we talked about this a minute ago was that we could be on the cusp of 1877. what that means is the construction will happen when they take it back. >> >> i am sorry we did not have enough time to get into this pic >> we can hang out for a long time. it is important to people to understand the context. post-renaissance thinking. a post-renaissance thinker is you look at the hole if you want to look at a particular part and understand it.
you have to look at the broader context. as we look at it the events happening today, we must put that into historical context. history repeats itself. you heard that. he talked about in the reconstruction. . okay? pick the question is whether we go back or backwards? backwards means that you take away everything that you have gained. back in terms of histories -- history menu pick up many of the things you thought you had gained. that is why we see racism
raising its ugly head because it did not go away. it went to the side. okay? it did not go out. it simply went to the side. the reason we have the kind of expression today is because the sides are coming forward. the history repeats itself means that it goes in a circle. it goes backward. it goes back but not backwards. it is a circle and it will continue. you pick up some things and lose others. the question is how large is that circle. it depends on how long we go backward. that is when i say we don't have enough time because i need graphics to show you exactly what i mean. the confederate flag.
i live in alabama. okay? we celebrate martin luther king's birthday. guess who else his birthday is the same time? robert e lee. the white folks are celebrating robert evening. you think you are celebrating martin luther king's birthday. that is what i am talking about. they actually sent out applications if you want to join the ku klux klan in high school. in church if they pass it out in alabama. that is where i live. that is what i am talking about. things that you have not seen before. how do you respond to it is the question and when you see it in the larger context of history,
it is no mystery. it is when you don't know your history that it becomes a mystery. we have seen this before. let's get quickly past that and get to salome nation -- slow- motion with our perch. we don't have enough involvement of young people. remember the movement of the 60s? these were young folk. i was a teenager. look at the children's movement. the children and young folk make it happen. they had the support of the adults. the adults make sure they were there for them. we had to get the young people involved. one of the things you do is
create a simulated legislature. ages 12 to 17. get those young people together and get them to elect officials to replicate the very state election that we have. they can vote on the same day. you can get a youth body. you have the voter registration cards. they will turn 18 the next day or month or year. by having a meeting once a month with all of the young people and you have a party or something good to eat with that kind of stuff for the economy. also you bring a representative and and have them talk about
the bills that they are considering in the legislature. by the way, did you hear what i said? bills. who do you think is going to pay the bills? the budget and tax money. you people need to stop getting involved and learn how to do that. give them a block and their neighborhood to make sure they get go out to raise the vote. get out with absentee ballots. absentee. i never knew about all of that. the juveniles in the juvenile facility. they can participate in that. all right? that is why i said i
did not have enough time. but anyway, don't give up. listen to me. this will not last long. i promise you. the way things are going now, we can only go backward so far. we start stepping on other folks toes that are behind us. that is what is happening right now and that is why you are feeling the reaction going on. we don't have time to discuss it but take my word for it. it won't last long. that is because folks will be taking action. you know the group i am talking about. the women. cup --[ applause ]it's over.
they had a meeting to decide whether they will continue. when they were having the meeting, they passed at 75,000 flyers. it is over. >> a final thought. imagine this. this is before your copy machine. this is a mimeograph machine. she mimeographed 70,000 pieces to handout. mimeographed. think about that. >> do you want to wrap it up? >> organized.[ applause ]. >> thank you. were coming. don't go away.
apostle of the civil rights movement has been shot to death in memphis, tennessee. good evening. doctor martin luther king, the apostle of nonviolence has been shot to death in method -- memphis, tennessee pick a white man seen running from the seat. officers chased and fired on a radio equipped car containing two white men picked doctor king was standing on the balcony when according to the a companion shot was fired from across the street.